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Finding my imperfect happiness


November 09, 2018

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There was a period of about eight years in my life that I constantly experienced pain in my stomach due to mild anxiety. The constant fiery churning in my gut was always present during high school and most of college. It was there when I took tests in school. It was there when I worried about current events. It was there when I struggled with friends and fitting in. It was there when I worried about my future. It was just always there. It became normal for me to feel this anxious pain in my stomach.

I was a good student and tried to be a good person. I was a people pleaser and a peacemaker. I rarely asked questions in class, not wanting to cause a problem for my teacher or say the wrong thing. Yet, I gave myself the expectation to get all A’s. I tried to be what I thought other people wanted me to be. I deeply desired to be one of the smart, successful kids who were getting lots of scholarships and perfect grades. I wanted to be involved in extracurricular activities, and still have time to look great and be loved by everyone. I wanted to be organized and make my bed perfectly every day. I wanted to be perfect.

My perfectionistic desires were not always self-centered either. I wanted to help others and save them from their problems. I took on other people’s problems as my own. All along, I internalized these stresses instead of sharing them and working them out. These worries swirled around in my head and eventually it took a toll on me physically and emotionally.

Finally, I reached a turning point in my stressful, perfectionistic thinking. I started talking about it. After holding everything inside for so long, I finally opened up and talked about it. This was the key for me. One night I had a long conversation with my parents about my life. One thing led to another and pretty soon I was breaking down into a complete ugly cry. I told them all my heavy stresses. I admitted my desire to be perfect and how it hurt so much when I wasn’t.

My parents assured me over and over that night in practical and loving terms that I was wonderful for who I was. And I was finally able to see how my perfectionism was hurting me, not helping me. I did not need to try to be someone else. I did not need to solve all the world’s problems in one day. I was putting the pressure on myself.

After this cathartic experience, the process of healing my mind and my thought process was one that just took time. I gave myself permission to not be perfect. I said it over and over in my head. I was slowly becoming aware of myself and where my true potential was. I realized that science and math were not for me, and I accepted a C grade for the first time ever in my college science class. I was not meant to be an all-around scholar, and I understood now that it was OK.

I learned it’s OK to say things like, “No I don’t like that,” or “I don’t understand, can you help me.” I started figuring out what I truly liked to do, not what I thought other people wanted me to do. I discovered true friendships and found I could help the world by loving individuals who were just as imperfect as me.

Now as a parent of three bright, hard-working teenagers, I see them manifesting some of my same stressed-out qualities. I find myself checking my parenting by asking, “Am I contributing to the pressure they feel, or am I helping them cope and work through that anxiety the way my parents did?” I want them to understand they can accomplish good things. Not all stress is bad, but when it reaches a perfectionistic level, it makes our lives empty and full of negativity.

I want them to know that figuring out life takes patience. But mostly I want to be there for them, to talk with them and guide them. I want to listen to them.

By the time I graduated from college, that constant, anxious pain in my stomach was finally gone. It just stopped. Maybe it was just a sign of maturity. Maybe it was the result of admitting my problems and working through them. Maybe it’s because I can see now that my life has turned out good, even though my bed is unmade most days. Maybe it’s because I didn’t give up on myself, and I finally accepted myself, imperfections and all.

Lisa Jorgensen is a regular freckled-faced girl who is determined to find the good in life. Lisa runs a family lifestyle blog called Making Life Blissful and filled with realistic family activities, kid crafts, recipes and life lessons. Otherwise, you’ll usually find her watching sunsets, eating chocolate or doing laundry.

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